Sunday, August 24, 2008

Before we start, if we start ...

Well I finally joined Rough Trade's The Album Club after at least 12 months' of saying I would.

Basically this is a subscription service where for £12 a month RT send you their pick of the month ("The Album") together with listening notes ("The Fold") to this album plus their 9 other picks. And if you don't like The Album (they do like the definitive article) you can post it back to swap for one of the other records of the month. It's available either for CDs or digital download. And you can cancel at anytime.

Clearly this is genius. What a simple idea and as they say "it couldn't be easier to discover and own the very best new music". So I joined at the beginning of the month and then had THREE WEEKS to kill until delivery time.

The first delivery was due Friday just gone but arrived 24 hours later. Just to add to the sense of anticipation. There's new Ballboy and James Yorkston albums due in the next few weeks (both essential purchases in my book) - could these be The Album??

With eager fingers I carefully opened the jiffy bag to find ... Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve.

Reaching for The Fold I find that this album ("3rdmynd") is a compilation of ultra-limited vinyl releases by a mystery duo who turn out to be Richard Norris of The Grid and Erol Alkan. (The Grid they had that single "Swamp Thing" didn't they? About the same time as "Cotton-Eyed Joe" ...).

Hmmm. Dance producer and a DJ. Given my listening time is finite and I have no interest in dancing, particularly to repetitive beats, I avoid most dance music and anything that refers to 'beats per minute'. My preference is for music that follows two rough templates, either
a) verse-chorus-verse-feedback; or
b) maudlin introspection-chorus-maudlin introspection-repeat maudlin introspection to fade.

So with a sense of disappointment I started listening, reluctantly, to "3rdmynd". Well blow me. It ain't dance music. It's mighty, mighty fine music. Me and my prejudice.

Here's what RT say:

I don't know exactly what Beyond The Wizzard's Sleeve have done. These tracks are not mash-ups. They are not updatings or remixes of old tracks. They appear to have found obscure psych tracks and lovingly enhanced them. That's the best way to describe it. It feels like fans playing homage.

It starts with Before We Start, If We Start which is takes a spoken word extract, loops it, speeds it up and then crashes it headfirst into feedback. This is just the beginning of the inventiveness. The music that follows is timeless and it soars and it uplifts. Truly mindbending psychedelia. And in Winter in June it blends 60s pop innocence and charm with Percy Thrower's gardening tips. 4 and 1/2 minutes where I just grinned like an idiot.

Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve
3rdmynd [BUY]

The Album Club [JOIN]

The Fold also includes three recommendations from BTWS of records that influenced them and then the other nine recommendations. These can be streamed on the website for subscribers and, of course, all ordered for the standard price of £12.

And I thought joining might be a way to save money. It's going to cost me a fortune. But if the first CD is anything to go by, it's going to be glorious.

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